Saturday, June 14, 2008

Review: Agnes Grey, by Anne Bronte

Agnes Grey, the daughter of a clergyman who’s had a reversal of fortunes, determines to get a job working as a governess to make ends meet. Her first post is as the governess to what must be literature’s most spoiled brats, the Bloomwood children of Wellwood House. After being subjected to employers that would put Miranda Pristley in The Devil Wears Prada or the Xs in The Nanny Diaries to shame, Agnes is fired (her gain, I think) and seeks another post, this time at Horton Lodge, where her charges are Miss Rosalie Murray and Miss Miranda Murray. While there, Agnes becomes acquainted with the village’s curate, Edward Weston. Its not difficult to guess what happens there.

Anne’s sister, Charlotte, glamorized and romanticized the life of a governess somewhat in Jane Eyre. Apparently, Anne’s description of the tribulations Agnes goes through are nearly true to life. The first few chapters are devoted to Agnes’s complaining about the treatment she receives at the hands of the Bloomwood children, but the story picks up when she arrives at Horton Lodge and Rosalie has her coming-out party. Rosalie Morton is another spoiled, selfish brat, but her personality is more fleshed out than those of the Bloomwoods. She provides the perfect contrast to Agnes’s demure, subdued demeanor. If you’ve read Wuthering Heights and/or Jane Eyre, be prepared for the fact that Agnes Grey is a lot more down-to-earth and provincial--it actually reminded me a bit of George Eliot's Middlemarch, or The Mill On the Floss. But its not without its merits. It's too bad that Anne Bronte is so often overshadowed by her sisters, because this is a very fine novel.

Also reviewed by: BCF Book Reviews, Kay's Bookshelf


Danielle said...

I've read both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, but I am hoping this year to read Anne finally. I'm not sure whether I'll read this one or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Agnes Grey sounds veyr good as well.

Teddy Rose said...

Great review Katherine. This one is on my TBR and it sounds really good to me.

Jaimie said...

There were some disturbing images in the story too. Did you know it was based on an actual family that Anne was a governess for? She didn't stay long!

Alix said...

Sounds interesting. I never really liked Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights but I may give the third sister a go.

thebluestockings said...

Thanks for posting this review! About a year ago I read Wuthering Heights and HATED it. I immediately read Jane Eyre and LOVED it. I meant to round out the experience by reading Agnes Grey but haven't gotten around to it. Your post has encouraged me to get to it.


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